Preoccupations - Cassette

by Jon Burke Rating:7 Release Date:2017-08-01

Canadian post-punkers, Preoccupations, have just re-released their first EP, Cassette. To clear up any confusion, Preoccupations were once known as Viet Cong and Cassette was originally issued under that slightly-controversial moniker. To further complicate matters, Viet Cong arose from the ashes of Women, the brilliant art rock band whose demise culminated in an on-stage fight, mid-set, between bandmates/brothers Pat and Matt Flegel. I reference Women here because, while Cassette EP may technically have been Preoccupations’ first recording, it feels much more like a Women record and serves as a fond farewell to the now defunct band.

The lighthearted jangle and sparkly atmospherics of Cassette are somewhat misleading in terms of the sonic direction Preoccupations were heading. In fact, the first Preoccupations full length (Viet Cong) is a very dark, very intense, listening experience. Cassette, though clearly inspired by the post-punk and new wave sounds of the early 1980s, is tonally more in line with the psychedelic garage rock of the 1960s. There is a warmth to these songs that later-day Preoccupations shuns like the plague. 

The opening track, "Throw It Away," is a glorious The Jam-meets-The Kinks-style rocker with a thudding bass line and soaring guitars. "Unconscious Melody" leans-into a slinky groove that is annoyingly catchy. "Oxygen Feed" on the other hand distorts it's jangly riff and everything else, save for the thudding drumbeat, to the point that it loses any coherence or appeal. "Structureless Design" is the first hint at where Preoccupations would head - a bleak Echo & The Bunnymen jam that explodes into a whiling Bauhaus-style assault on the senses with a drum machine, screamed vocals and screeching guitar attacks. Next up is an actual Bauhaus cover of "Dark Entries" and it's phenomenal. It's actually faster and more menacingly aggressive than the original, Peter Murphy's icy cool having been replaced with a unique intensity and hunger.

Cassette is an enjoyable early milestone in the career of one of the most interesting bands working in post-punk today. It's not a great record but it's incredibly solid and a must-have for fans of Women who miss that band's unique sound. Cassette is definitely worth a listen or three.

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